Stageworks Theatre, Tampa’s longest-running professional theater company, began 2023 with two newly announced gifts totaling more than $2 million, providing a strong foundation to secure the theater’s long-term future. Mercury Advisors, the developers of Grand Central at Kennedy, gifted Stageworks its current 99-seat, first-floor theater. The gift is valued at $2.45 million. Additionally, the Tampa-based Frank E. Duckwall Foundation Inc. provided a $10,000 grant for the theater company to convert to more energy-efficient stage lighting. The gifts came as Stageworks celebrates its 40th Anniversary Season.

“We are extremely grateful for these amazing gifts,” said Karla Hartley, Stageworks’ producing artistic director. “They signify the confidence these organizations have not only in our outstanding performances but in Stageworks’ vision for the future. As we continue to expand our fundraising efforts, these donations will help ensure that Stageworks continues to inspire and educate Tampa audiences and produce groundbreaking new works for many years to come.”

Late last year, Mercury Advisors decided to sell its first-floor retail holdings, but it chose not to include the theater to ensure Stageworks continued to have a performance space. Stageworks has leased the theater from Mercury Advisors since 2012.

“Owning our theater will help us fulfill our potential, especially after the challenges of the pandemic, which impacted arts organizations around the world,” noted Jennifer Scher, chairperson of Stageworks Theatre’s board of directors.

Prior to moving to Grand Central at Kennedy, Stageworks performed at a variety of venues, including a Ybor City storefront, Hillsborough Community College, the University of Tampa’s Faulk Theatre, and the Straz Center.

Funds from the Duckwall Foundation will be used to transition Stageworks’ current lighting board from incandescent to LED lighting, which is more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient, and will help reduce costs.

Stageworks Theatre’s mission is to ignite the human spirit and be a catalyst in eradicating intolerance through performing arts and education. In addition to six performances each season, Stageworks provides acting and improvisation classes and workshops. Its partnership with Academy Prep brings drumming classes to students at three campuses to support their overall learning, and the theater company has also provided its drumming and arts education curriculum to students in the juvenile justice system.

Over the years, Stageworks has been honored with numerous local and regional awards. To learn more about Stageworks Theatre’s upcoming productions, membership options and community outreach, visit

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